Harunaga Isaacson Isaacson at UNI-HAMBURG.DE
Sun Oct 29 16:35:40 UTC 2000

Stephen Hodge wrote:

> I have
> not come across the term in any of the kriyaa or caryaa tantras nor
> the commentaries thereto.  This suggests that "vajrayaana" was coined
> or began to come into use around the time that the STTS was
> composed -- perhaps late 7th century.

This is not unlikely.  In my previous message I was simply pointing out
that your observation that 'the term "vajrayaana" does not seem to be that
common in Indic text connected to the tantras' is hardly accurate (you
did, indeed, preface that remark by writing 'Admittedly I am more familiar
with early Buddhist
tantras -- those preceeding the anutarrayoga category').

One might just add that also in the tantras sometimes classed as yogottara
(though often actually as yogatantras! let me leave aside the complicated
question of the category mahaayogatantra) such as the Guhyasamaajatantra,
we also find (quite frequently) the term vajrayaana. It is by no means
restricted to the yoganiruttaratantras/yoginiitantras. (One more aside;
the term you used, anuttarayogatantra, despite being ubiquitous in
secondary literature, may well be yet another 'ghost' Sanskrit term, based
on a possibly erroneous back-translation from the Tibetan. Again, I'd be
interested to know of any real attestations of the word in surviving
Sanskrit texts).

> > But that the STTS does not have any sexual rituals/imagery is, I
> would say,
> > incorrect.
> I originally wrote "overt sexual rituals/imagery" but deleted "overt".
> True, there are elements that may be interpreted in that sense but
> they are still very tenuous and not central -- neither Shakyamitra nor
> Buddhaguhya make any mention of that kind of interpretation.  If it
> does not involve great trouble on your part, I would be interested to
> know what passages you believe involve sexual rituals -- though I know
> of one that you may have in mind.  As for sexual imagery, perhaps
> that's in the eye of the beholder :)

There is certainly some truth in that last remark; and as you know it
works both ways. Some might be determined to see sexual imagery virtually
everywhere, and some might be determined not to see it. And one could also
if one wanted quibble about what (sexual) ritual is. Or for that matter
about what sort of line of demarcation there is between yoga and ritual.

To avoid, for reasons of time, too many such discussions, let me put it
this way---the continuity between the STTS and later Vajrayaana
is greater than is commonly acknowledged (perhaps greater than many
Shingon scholars, intent on distinguishing their 'pure esotericism' from
'late' Indian or Tibetan tantra, would like to believe). If one reads the
STTS (especially if one reads it in Sanskrit!) one encounters a lot of
passages that are actually very close to some of the 'sexual'
yoginiitantra (and also of course yogottaratantra) material. I don't
particularly want to go into detailed discussions  just now.
One example, though, if you want: the line Guhyasamaajatantra 7.26cd
svaretobindubhir buddhaan vajrasattva.m ca puujayet, and the lines from
the first pa.tala of the Herukaabhidhaana (Laghu"sa.mvaratantra)
antargatena manasaa kaamasiddhi.m tu bhaavayet| svaretobindubhir buddhaan
bodhisattvaa.m"s ca puujayet|| (the commentators make much of these lines)
are obviously adapted from the STTS's
antargatena manasaa kaama"suddhi.m tu bhaavayet| svaretobindubhir buddhaan
puujayan siddhim aapnuyaat||. I believe that Yamada in his STTS edition
(which I don't have at hand; and my copy of Horiuchi is somewhere in a box
at the moment) failed to understand the second half, and writes svare 'to
bindubhir... (The Tibetan too, as I recall, mistranslated that line,
perhaps as a result of misreading svaritabindubhir; that could be a
deliberate 'bowdlerization' but is more probably just an error---my
impression was that there are very many obvious mistakes in the Tibetan
STTS translation).

And of course a verse like the one introduced as the
ma.nikuladharmasiddhiguhyatantra could have come from a yoginiitantra
text. And there are many more. The early yogottaratantras and also I think
at least the earlier yoganiruttaratantras very probably saw themselves as
continuing, also regarding the use of 'sexual' elements in the path, a
line laid out in the STTS.

I think it is very unlikely that the GST, important work though that is,
is the first Buddhist tantric scripture to introduce 'sexual
ritual/imagery'. Probably one could only maintain that if one assigned to
it (as, it is true, one or two modern authors do) a very early date.

By the way, for those interested in this topic, one might recommend Michel
Strickmann's book Mantras et mandarins: Le bouddhisme tantrique en Chine.
(Editions Gallimard 1996), particularly the fifth chapter, called L'amour
chez les éléphants, in which, according to Strickmann, he has 'recherché
des traces de rites sexuels á travers une documentation souvent lacunaire
et fragmentée. Le corpus de textes le plus fécond émane du culte de
Vinaayaka (ou Gane"sa), qui est à la fois l'Obstacle et le Briseur
d'obstacles. Ce dieu à tête d'éléphant a dicté un rituel complexe imprégné
d'érotisme, dont on trouve les primières traces chinoises à la fin du VIe
siècle' (p. 55). I am no Sinologist, but found Strickmann's book
interesting and on the whole rather impressive. He does not seem to me to
be a sensation-monger.

> > Mantrayaana is indeed found in Indian texts preserved in Sanskrit.
> > But it is much less common a term than vajrayaana.
> That's simply because the Buddhists tantric texts that survive
> overwhelmingly belong to the anuttara-yoga tantra class.  There was
> obviously a transition from "mantra-naya" which commentators like
> Buddhaguhya use exclusively, to "mantra-yaana" whcih the co-existed
> with the apparently later but more popular "vajra-yaana".

That the widespread popularity of the term vajrayaana (not necessarily the
term itself) is later than that of the term mantrayaana may well be true.
But it seems to me that the picture you suggest is probably a  little bit
_too_ simple... For one thing, as I mentioned before, mantranaya never
really went out of fashion in India. All three terms co-existed. For
another, the term vajrayaana is as I mentioned above, by no means
exclusive to the niruttarayogatantras (or yoginiitantras).

Concluding for the time being (my woful state of lack of preparation for
the teaching of the coming week seems to demand attention, and this
message is so much longer than the golden 2-screens that I risk just
rebuke),  let me just add that
to make this discussion of terms used in self-reference in Indian tantric
Buddhism (a discussion which seems to me potentially an interesting one,
though this may not be the right time or forum to pursue it) somewhat more
comprehensive, and bring it closer to being accurate to the extremely
complex history of tantric Buddhism (which I would like to stress that we
are only perhaps just beginning to be able to study, despite the
pioneering works of such scholars as Matsunaga, Snellgrove, etc.) we ought
really not to forget here the word vajranaya (which also occurs in the
STTS, and in for instance the GST, and some other pre-niruttarayogatantra

Harunaga Isaacson

Institut für Kultur und Geschichte Indiens und Tibets
Universität Hamburg

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